NASCAR: Watkins Glen provides opportunity for winless drivers
For those who still have aspirations to run for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the final 10 races of the season, the future is now--and its name is Watkins Glen.
For three drivers in particular --Tony Stewart, Marcos Ambrose and AJ Allmendinger-- the best shot at a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup arguably comes this weekend at the 2.45-mile road course in New York's Finger Lakes district.
The winner of two of the last three races at WGI, Ambrose will be front and center as the odds-on favorite, and with good reason. The Australian driver is the most accomplished road racer in the Cup series, as his record at the Glen attests.
Before last year's anomalous 31st-place finish, the result of a crash, Ambrose had finished in the top three in his only five previous starts at WGI, winning in 2011 and 2012.
Likewise, Allmendinger is no slouch at the high-speed road course, having finished no worse than 13th in five career starts, with top 10s in his last three appearances. Allmendinger has completed all 452 scheduled laps in his five starts combined.
Stewart, of course, is a five-time winner at the Glen, having taken the checkered flag most recently in 2009. The three-time series champion hasn't been as competitive as he'd like to be on the ovals this year, but a road course puts more of the onus on the driver, and Stewart's skill set is unquestioned.
Ambrose, Allmendinger and Stewart aren't high enough in the standings to bank on qualifying for the Chase on points, but Sunday could bring a season-changing event for any of the three.
Want irony? The same guy who won at Pocono earlier this year because of a piece of litter won again yesterday and is grabbing a broom.
Much like Kyle Larson's truck from Eldora Speedway, Pocono Raceway only has three sides.
Last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Joe Gibbs Racing cars finished P2, P3 and P4. And thanks to the ingenuity of the #11 team, they earned a P5 also.
Mark Martin will be joining Roush-Fenway Racing as a coach. Jack Roush knows Mark's years of knowledge will help develop his young drivers. He also didn't want all of Carl Edwards' gym equipment to go to waste.
(Follow @nascarcasm on Twitter. His unique views on NASCAR are his own -- but chances are you have probably figured that out by now.)
5: The number of laps led by race runner-up Kevin Harvick in Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway. That boosted Harvick's total for the year to 899 laps led, surpassing his previous single-season high of 895 laps in 2006--and Harvick still has 15 races to run this year.
63: The number of laps led by Jeff Gordon in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono. That increased Gordon's career total of laps led at Pocono to a series-best 1,037 for the record six-time winner at the Tricky Triangle.
12: The number of years between season sweeps at a single track for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who on Sunday won his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono this season. Earnhardt last swept events at a track in 2002, when his only two victories of the year both came at Talladega.
20: The finishing position of Ryan Truex in Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono, a career best for the 22-year-old younger brother of Cup veteran Martin Truex Jr. In 20 previous starts in the series, Truex's best result was 30th at Martinsville on Mar. 30.
97: Of a possible 542, the number of laps led by Marcos Ambrose in six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Watkins Glen International, site of Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. Ambrose has two victories, a pole and five top-three finishes at the 2.45-mile road course.
For only the second time in his career, Dale Earnhardt Jr. swept at a race track, winning both events at Pocono Raceway. His win on Sunday catapulted him to the top of the Chase Grid Outlook, and if the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup began today, he'd start as the No. 1 seed. ... Kevin Harvick needed only eight points in Sunday's race at Pocono to clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He got 43. Assuming he starts the remaining five races of the regular season, Harvick has locked up his spot in NASCAR's playoffs. He joins fellow clinchers Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards. ... In leading a race-high 63 laps in Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway, Jeff Gordon reached two major milestones. First, he reached 1,000 laps led at Pocono, becoming the first person to accomplish the feat. Later in the race, once he led 51 laps, Gordon became the sixth driver in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history to reach 24,000 career laps led. ... Toyota's record-setting streak in the NASCAR Camping World Series has come to an end. The manufacturer won each of the first 10 races of the season (and 12 consecutive overall dating back to 2013) heading into last Saturday's race at Pocono. But Austin Dillon, driving a Chevrolet, ended the streak with his win at the Tricky Triangle.
By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service